Monday, March 31, 2014

Hauling Out in New Zealand, Part I

Our cradle sitting in the water, waiting to pull us out.
As the sun came up on Thursday, the 13th of February, Brett and I nervously paced the deck, getting things as ready as we could for our impending haul-out.  After extensive research, we had decided to use Norsand Boatyard in Whangarei.  We based this on a combination of safety efforts, price, location and just general vibes after visiting all of the main yards in Whangarei and talking to the owners and their staff.  The only part we were a little concerned about with Norsand is that they don't use a travel lift - for the first time Bella Vita would be coming out of the water in a very different manner than she was used to....

Our trusty helper David.  Note the "high tech"
pole he used (an old Shakespeare antenna).
At Norsand Boatyard, due to the location and tidal restrictions, they are not able to use a classic travel lift.  Instead they have developed a very slick system where they pre-build a cradle to fit your specific boat, submerge it in the water on their ramp and then have you float up onto it during high tide.  Once you are secured between the cradle arms a huge front loader (a type of tractor for those of us that don't speak Caterpillar) pulls you up the ramp and out of the water.  While we were a little bit nervous about the process, I can honestly say that the two workers in charge did a great job, moving slowly and cautiously through the complete process.  So slow in fact that the whole thing takes about 2 hours.  Amazingly, since boats can only be hauled at high tide, they can only do two boats a day!  Yes, two boats a day coming in or out, it doesn't matter.  Can you imagine the yards in Seattle only hauling two boats a day?  There wouldn't be a yard under that economic structure - but things are different here in NZ where everything moves a LOT slower.

Bella Vita being pulled out of the water.
But I digress, back to the actual haul-out!  After being safely hauled out, then waiting for a catamaran to be hauled out and power washed, then having our boat power washed, we were placed in our final yard location and officially blocked at about 4pm!  Yes - that's right - we started at 7am and were not technically finished until 4pm.  Can I just say that with two people doing this process for which we were charged about $350, I think it's safe to say this is not exactly a huge money-making enterprise for the yard.  More like a loss-leader.  Just say'n.

The crane is set and ready to lift the mast out.
Once we were in our "home" we quickly went to work on finishing the prep we needed to do to pull the mast - scheduled for 8am the next morning.  We were trying our best to only be out for one week and the clock was ticking (imagine $10 bills just floating away from you......continually.....and you'll understand why we wanted to keep our stay short).  Thanks to the wonderfully long days of New Zealand summertime, we finished the mast prep around 7pm.  Plenty of time to have dinner and relax a little before the big lift in the morning.

Check out how cool this crane looks!

At about 8:15 the next morning the most immaculate crane I have ever seen pulls in and starts setting up.  I'm talking bright red paint and not a dent or scratch to be seen.  Do we have to pay extra to have a crane this nice????  It was practically a piece of artwork!  But it performed as promised and soon enough the mast was out and set up next to the boat, ready for all the work we wanted to do.

That's Jerry way up there attaching the hoist.
The main reason we hauled the mast was to run new VHF wire and unfortunately the old pipe was already so chock full of wires that we couldn't add or subtract anything.  This meant we needed to run a new plastic tube the entire length (65 feet!).  Why not just drop the wire down the mast you might ask?  Lots of room in there right?  Well, that would mean the wire would be banging around in there making all sorts of noise and potentially interfering with the lines that run through for our halyards.  Electrical wires need to be protected, which means a pipe that is somehow fastened to the mast so it also stays stationary, even in rough seas.

She's out!

To do this you have to basically rivet the plastic pipe to the side of the mast - easier said than done!  Here's the steps:
Step 1: Run the pipe (the only easy part).
Step 2: Drill a hole where you want the rivet.
Step 3: Try to hold the pipe in place through a tiny hole while you drill the plastic pipe to match the hole you just put in.
Step 4: Feed the rivet in without dislodging the pipe.
Step 5: Swear a lot as you try to realign the dislodged pipe and the two tiny holes again.
Step 6: Repeat steps 4/5 until you actually feed in and expand the rivet.
Step 7: Say a prayer and test that the rivet placed is holding.
Step 8: Repeat steps 2 thru 7 about 25 times along the length of the mast.

I think Brett and Jerry are relieved to have the mast safely out!
The good news?  After two days of some fairly serious swearing the pipe was in place!  But the terrible news we discovered two days before re-stepping the mast and going back in the water?  The rivets we'd used were too long and the wire WOULD NOT PASS through the tube.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??????  Suffice it to say that was a very dark moment for the crew of Bella Vita after so many hours already spent.  It also didn't help that we didn't discover it until we had completely reassembled the rig in preparation for Monday (putting the spreaders back on, each screw carefully lubed and tightened, all rig back in place, lines run, etc.) and we were actually feeling a little smug about being ahead of schedule.  NEVER GET SMUG.  Talk about a smack-down.  We had to work all weekend to redo the pipe....IN THE RAIN!  Lets just sum it up by saying it was not a happy weekend.  But thankfully we did finish it in time and ran the wire immediately after to prove that this time the rivets were properly sized.  Phew!

Doing this job was a real back-breaker!  But music helped.
So what else did we do while we were out?  Here's some of the fun stuff we worked on:
  • Re-bed the forward hatch (readers may remember stories of major leaking when sailing to weather).  This involved taking off the hatch, removing all of the old caulk, digging out the base around the frame, filling that base with resin, fairing the resin after it cured, re-drilling the holes, re-caulking and then saying a prayer as we won't know until we're sailing to weather again if it's actually fixed.  But I don't know what else we can do to fix it if it didn't work.  
  • Clean the stains at the waterline.  After 3 months in the Whangarei Marina in Town Basin - which has some of the most disgusting water we have ever been in - the entire waterline had about two inches of brown stain above the bottom paint.  After spending 2 hours working on the stain and getting nowhere (and about to start crying), a fellow boater took mercy on me and came over with a magic potion (also known as Marykate On & Off) which takes the stain out in about 3 seconds.  Seriously!  It's basically acid so it also takes off any wax - so only use it if you plan to re-wax!  But I almost kissed this person with the magic potion as I had been just about at my wits end on how I was going to remove the stain.
  • Prep the hull and apply bottom paint.  That means vacuum-sanding the old paint (which we had the yard do as it's a nasty, nasty job), fix and fair the joint between the keel and the boat, fix and fair any little gouges that happened in the last 10,000 miles, sand a little more and then wash off the dust and apply 2 coats of bottom paint everywhere below waterline, plus an extra coat at water line.  More on the paint we used in a future post.
The furler drum, per-maintenance.

Brett replacing the Torlon ball bearings.
  • Completely service our genoa furler - which means taking apart the entire thing, cleaning all parts, installing new bearings and re-lubing everything before putting it back together.  A total pain but boy did she purr afterwards!

  • Rebuild the sheave for our main halyard as we discovered the bushing was badly damaged.  I think it's important to note that we knew we had a problem but couldn't see it from just going up the mast, even when looking directly at it.  This is yet another excellent reason to pull the mast every so often and inspect EVERYTHING thoroughly.  It wasn't until we pulled it out that we found the bushing was almost 50% worn and barely functional.  Not cool!
  • Clean and wax the entire hull above waterline using a buffer.  Sounds easy, but actually encompassed two full days of hard labor.  Exhausting work but boy does she look pretty when you're done!
  • Clean prop and shaft and put on new zincs.  Take a look at the before and after pictures - nice! 
BEFORE: the prop fresh out of the water after
three months in mucky water - yuck!
AFTER: this is what it's supposed to look like!

  • On a rainy day midweek Brett also did a bunch of prep to re-insulate our refrigerator and freezer with expanding foam.  This meant taking everything apart (a good time since we were not using the fridge) and drilling LOTS of holes for the foam to go into and relief holes for the excess foam to come out.  More on this project in a future post...
  • Re-bedding all the tangs where the rig attaches - much easier to do when the mast is out and the rig is off! 

Getting ready to go back in.  They bring over the hydraulic
lift, but have to take off the big wheels so it can fit
under the cradle frame, seen at the top left.
That's the main list, though there were many, many other small jobs that I can't even remember.   Suffice it to say that we ended up being out for 10 days (not too bad considering everyone had bets we'd take two weeks) and we did so much work that we basically fell into bed exhausted every night.  Think 12-14 hour days for 10 days straight.  Ugh.  Cruising is just soooooo glamorous!

Here's David installing the small wheels...
But after over 10,000 miles in 18 months Bella Vita deserves some serious tender love and care.  I'm happy to report that while we spent about 3.5 months of our budget during this 10 day period (not good), we did a ton of work and Bella Vita is ready to go back out there and take us to some new and hopefully wonderful destinations.  While it's tough to know we are WAAAAAY over budget, it's a good feeling to know we've put the work in and hopefully it will pay off as we travel to exciting new places.

With the small wheels the lift goes underneath, picks
Bella Vita up, and we're soon back in the water.  Phew!
 Stay tuned for Hauled Out, Part II - what it's like to live on a boat out of the water....